QLD growers lose hundreds of millions in floods

The recent floods in Queensland have completely wiped out some citrus orchards and have caused serious damage to many others.

Judy Shepherd, secretary of the Gayndah and District Fruit Growers Association said the damage to fruit orchards has been "catastrophic", reports news.com.au.

She said the effects would be long-lasting with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage in the citrus industry alone.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney is visiting Gayndah today and Shepherd said she hopes to show him how badly the area needs government support.

"I want to impress on Jeff … that the small amounts of help that we get through, after two or three years of this sort of stuff, it's not helping anymore. It's not enough," she said.

While the year is still young, it's been a difficult start for Australian growers, with the heatwave experienced earlier in the month also causing serious grief for primary producers.

Wheat and barley prices are expected to jump as a result of the recent hot weather, which is also expected to damage the sorghum fodder grain crop. Farmers are also expecting a surge in water costs as they struggle to keep their crops alive.

Global warming could see more frequent heatwaves in Australia, resulting in crop failures. Fortunately, there is a national and international effort by plant breeders and physiologists to develop new varieties of crops with heat tolerance. Read more here.


QLD researchers develop coconut flavoured pineapple

A coconut flavoured pineapple is now in its final stages of production, after more than a decade's worth of work at The Department of Agriculture's research station.

Senior horticulturalist Garth Senewski told ABC the AusFestival pineapple is currently being multiplied by the department's commercial development partner.

Senewski says the new variety is expected to be very popular amongst consumers.

"Taste tests tell us that AusFestival is a winner – it has this lovely coconut flavour, which you won't find in any other pineapple in Australia," he said.

"It's sweet, low acid, very juicy."

The AusFestival will not be commercially available for another two years.


Government and beef industry unite to control Bovine Johne’s disease

Industry and government are on the same page when it comes to the management of Bovine Johne's disease (BJD), said Queensland's minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, John McVeigh.

Earlier this week McVeigh met with beef industry representatives to discuss the status of the disease, and said the government's position reflects that of the industry.

"The Newman government has dedicated significant resources to manage the situation and Biosecurity Queensland is working with industry to retain our Protected Zone status for BJD," McVeigh said.

"Industry groups including AgForce, Cattle Council of Australia and the Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association are working with us to manage the situation.

"We have a very low prevalence of BJD in Queensland and it's really important for industry that we maintain this status.

"Having a low prevalence of BJD facilitates exports and provides Queensland producers with greater market access than other parts of Australia that do not have protected status," said McVeigh.

A number of measures are in place to manage the disease, including risk assessments, sampling and testing on affected properties including one property near Rockhampton (the only to be confirmed as being infected with BJD) where three out of 600 heads of cattle had BJD.

"Movement restrictions are now in place on 150 properties that have received animals from the infected property," said McVeigh.

He said movement restrictions must remain in place until a property's disease status is resolved, and that the government is working hard to prioritise testing.

"Testing is being undertaken by Biosecurity Queensland and should the need arise we have contingency plans in place to manage the volume of tests required.

"As the nature of BJD testing is complex it can take 12 weeks or more to obtain results. Biosecurity Queensland is in contact with Sydney University about a new diagnostic test they are developing.

"As soon as this new test is available and validated in the laboratory in Queensland, the government will be able to start using the test," he said.

For more information visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au


New foodTech QLD expo to launch in 2013

FoodTech QLD will launch in July next year and forms part of the Queensland government's initiative to grow the value of the state's food industry to $40b by 2020.

Launching in Brisbane at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 14 to 16 July, organisers are expecting more than 100 exhibitors showcasing a range of innovative food processing developments and technologies with particular relevance to Queensland.

Confirmed exhibitors include CBS, Key Technologies, CST Wastewater, Vemag, SPX, Arrow Scientific, Wiley, KF Specialty Ingredients, Ecolab, Fallsdale, Plasdene, Titan, Innovate and VOR.

Diversified Exhibitions – the team behind Foodpro – will be managing the event, and exhibition manager Peter Petherick said the expo hopes to address the specific needs of Queensland's food and beverage industries.

"We have sought to give a definite focus to the machinery, packaging and ingredients that reflect the strengths of Queensland’s food industries, in particular, those used in the meat, seafood and fruit and vegetables sectors," he said.

FoodTech QLD 2013 will run alongside the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST) Conference.

Suppliers to the food manufacturing industry can book space now.  Visit www.foodtechqld.com.au for more information.


Sweet partnership between Queensland government and canegrowers

Cutting red tape and strengthening the partnership between canegrowers, stakeholders and the Queensland government is the aim of a new sugar industry sustainability deal announced today.

Canegrowers Mackay chairman Paul Schembri said that  is the expected result of the Best Management Practices agreement deal reported Daily Mercury.

"It is important, we think, to get the best outcome, regarding environmental sustainability for our industry and the community," Schembri said.

Schembri added a partnership is going to be much more helpful then more bureaucratic red tape which bogs farmers down with paperwork.

Ted Malone, LNP Member for Mirani said the government plans to work with the sugar cane industry to boost productivity and protect the Great Barrier Reef which is good news for growers.

"The agreement underpins the Government's plan to harness industry know-how with government-funded scientific research and education to protect the reef and build a sustainable and profitable agricultural industry," he said.

"Taking a best management practice approach by working with cane growers, rather than forcing them to fill in mounds of paperwork, has the potential to be more effective than regulation in protecting the Reef.

"(It) will address soil health and plant nutrition, pests, disease, weed management and integrated water system management in reef catchments."

Under the agreement, canegrowers will get $3.5 million to develop the plan.

"This is voluntary, but we are embracing it … the Government has given Canegrowers the power to develop region specific farming practices." Schembri said.

CEDA report calls for full review of Australia’s irrigated food supply

A report by CEDA says the food supply chain for irrigated agriculture is key to ensuring Australia can take advantage of increasing international food demands.

CEDA’s Australian Water Project report includes key recommendation around agriculture, environmental and urban water use.

CEDA Chief Executive, Professor the Hon. Stephen Martin says the report provides ‘recommendations for government to ensure more efficient and productive water use.’

“We are now in a period of relative water abundance and this is the perfect time to review the lessons of the recent extended drought, identify policy failures and implement water policy reform before the next drought begins,” he said.

Joint editor of the report and Uniwater, director, Professor John Langford said increasing food demand from Asia presented significant export opportunities for Australia.

“That is why a key recommendation of the report is a full review of the food supply chain, from international markets back to water supply for crops. This review should include stress testing, by increasing demand and reducing water availability, and examining trade policies, transport, storage and water infrastructure to identify and remedy blockages and constraints,” he said.

The issue of water irrigation and sustainable agricultural practices has been a growing concern as questions arise about how Australia can best cope with the growing demand from Asia.

Just this week, Cloncurry mayor Andrew Daniels says an irrigation sector is needed for his region which could also be used to service the town’s new beef abattoir.

"There's something like 124,000 megalitres on average goes down the Cloncurry River.

"If we can get 250 or 300 megalitre storages – three or four of them – to get pilot projects up and running, I think that will be sufficient. It won't have any environmental impact."

Daniels says irrigation would help to ensure cattle properties were sustainable.

In July, the Queensland Government announced plans to irrigate fertile land by using two untamed rivers out of the Gulf of Carpentaria, as plans to become Asia’s foodbowl started to take shape.

Under the outback Queensland plan, graziers and farmers are hoping to turn the black soil country lining the Flinders and Gilbert rivers into a hub for growing water-intensive crops including rice, cotton, beans and corn.

Up to 10 000 hectares of land would be opened up to irrigation under the plan, with 80 000ML coming from the Flinders and 15,000ML from the Gilbert in unallocated water reserves.

Other recommendations in the CEDA report include:

• Better funding and coordination of environmental water allocation, measuring and analysis
• Sustainable diversion limits set prior to water entitlement sales
• Insurance premiums to be quantified to guide augmentation and pricing decisions.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Second north-west food bowl on the agenda

Cloncurry mayor says there are opportunities for a second ‘food bowl’ in the region that are environmentally viable.

Cloncurry mayor Andrew Daniels says an irrigation sector is needed for the region which could also be used to service the town’s new beef abattoir, the ABC reported.

"[We'd need] probably less than two-and-a-half per cent of the water that flows past Cloncurry," he said.

"There's something like 124,000 megalitres on average goes down the Cloncurry River.

"If we can get 250 or 300 megalitre storages – three or four of them – to get pilot projects up and running, I think that will be sufficient. It won't have any environmental impact."

Daniels says irrigation would help to ensure cattle properties were sustainable.

"We need to have some sort of security around feed. Surely the writing is on the wall with that disastrous decision about the live export, we are really starting to see the consequences and if we don't try to help ourselves there'll be a lot more people hitting the wall."

The new beef abattoir at Cloncurry is part of a bigger project to create and sustain agricultural development in the Richmond and Flinders shires.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh said a local abattoir would lower the cost of supply chains for graziers.

QLD govt lends support to Cloncurry meatworks

The Queensland government has gotten behind a possible abattoir in the north-west of the state, because they say it will provide more opportunities for producers.

The potential meat works, earmarked for Cloncurry, would offer options for meat cattle producers throughout the whole of Queensland, according to Queensland’s 

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh.

He said since Queensland is the largest cattle producing state in Australia, accounting for almost 50 per cent of Australian beef and up to 10 per cent of live cattle exports, it makes sense for a new abattoir to be developed in the region.

“Cattle producers in the Gulf-Savannah and Mt Isa to Townsville (MITEZ) regions of Queensland are faced with expensive cattle transportation to southern feedlots, south east Queensland processors or live export ports in the north,” he said.

A local abattoir would lower the cost of supply chains for graziers and there would be significant advantages to building the meat works in Cloncurry, he said.

McVeigh believes the proposed site would offer good road access across north west Queensland and through to the Northern Territory, suitable finishing areas and future irrigated fodder production areas.

“It is now up to commercial operators or joint venture capitalists to get on board this amazing opportunity to help turn this opportunity into a reality,” McVeigh said.

But Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean has voiced some concerns over the plans, saying operators and investors would have to be convinced about the abattoir’s potential for it to go ahead.

In June, when it was revealed that the Cloncurry plant and another in Darwin were planned for Australia’s north, Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, said the close proximity of the facilities will not be a problem.

North Beef member and cattle producer Rob Atkinson requested MITEZ organise the initial study into a North West abattoir.

He now says the findings in the report have added “weight and proof” to the argument that a meat works was a viable and sustainable proposal for North West Queensland.

Atkinson agreed with McVeigh, saying a Cloncurry meat works would be hugely beneficial to cattle producers across the state.

“It costs a lot less in freight for boxed beef rather than live cattle,” he said.

“It has animal welfare benefits, with a processing plant closer to where the animals are reared it means less time in trucks for them.

“There will be a lot less road damage by the trucks and less driver fatigue issues.”

“When we cart live cattle a long way we get what we call shrinkage, which is dehydration of the animals while they’re in the trucks.

“As a producer because we’re paid by meat works on carcass weight if there’s been “shrinkage” it’s less profitable for the producer.

“A nearby meat works would reduce that factor. “

Are you a Queensland cattle producer? What do you think of the proposed meat works?

Blaze at QLD Capilano factory

A fire on the Capilano honey premises in Queensland this morning has not caused any injuries or impacted honey packing.

The fire on the Richlands premises in Brisbane occurred in a corner of the property, damaging a secondary honey holding and decanting sheds.

There was no damage to the main factory building, and Capilano said the fire will not impact decanting, production of bottled or packing of honey in there.

Some stored honey has been lost and damage sustained to other buildings, but the company’s main honey stocks are unaffected and it will still be able to process and pack honey to meet demand.

Capilano also has a second plant in Maryborough, Victoria as a backup for such emergencies.

The alarm was raised when the fire started and the premises evacuated, but no injuries have been reported.

Capilano has thanked the Queensland Fire and Rescue and Service for their speedy arrival to the premises and quick containment of the fire.

Fire Investigation teams remained on site to monitor the area for the following 24 hours.

Image: The Courier Mail

Outback QLD land to be irrigated to meet ‘foodbowl’ demand

The Queensland Government has announced plans to irrigate fertile land by using two untamed rivers out of the Gulf of Carpentaria, as plans to become Asia’s foodbowl take shape.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced earlier this year that the only way forward for Australia, in economic and agricultural terms, was to commit to becoming the ‘foodbowl’ for the rapidly rising Asian middle class.

The idea has been slammed by many within the industry, who say the PM is out of touch with reality and that current regulation is hindering the farming industry, not helping it, while others argue that Asia has already taken steps to ensure it will be able to feed its own people.

Some of these steps include Asian companies buying up prime agricultural land, leading to calls for a public register of ownership and a cap on the number of non-Australian that can invest in agricultural land.

On Friday a government report defended foreign investment in prime Australian agricultural land, and argued that the only way forward for the country is to embrace the rising Asian middle class.

The green paper for the National Food Plan has forecasted a rise of almost 80 percent rise in demand for food by 2050 and believes Australia should embrace the opportunity.

Under the outback Queensland plan, graziers and farmers are hoping to turn the black soil country lining the Flinders and Gilbert rivers into a hub for growing water-intensive crops including rice, cotton, beans and corn, according to The Courier Mail.

Up to 10 000 hectares of land would be opened up to irrigation under the plan, with 80 000ML coming from the Flinders and 15,000ML from the Gilbert in unallocated water reserves.

At an irrigators' forum at Hughenden yesterday, Queensland Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps said a that the decision provided a balance between economic development and water resource management.

JBS locking workers out over industrial action

After planned industrial action last week that was cancelled at the eleventh hour, the JBS meatworks in Rockhampton will close as workers walk off the job this Friday.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union’s Lee Norris said the company decided to close the factory entirely for the day, rather than allowing workers to stop work for four hours.

"We regard this as a lock-out," he said.

The workers are fighting for a four per cent pay rise to be made part of their bargaining agreement.

Two weeks ago the same situation occurred, after workers announced plans to strike for four hours, and the company closed the factory for the day in response.

JBS has offered 3 per cent, which it has previously said is reasonable and fair, but workers want the company to agree to the AMIEU’s  four per cent wage increase claim.

Industrial action cancelled at QLD meatworks

The planned industrial action that was set to close Ipswich’s largest meatworks has been cancelled at the last minute.

Workers at JBS Rockhampton abattoir announced plans to walk off the job for four hours today, as they call for a four per cent rise to be included in their bargaining agreement.

The employer responded by declaring the work stoppages would mean the meatworks would have to be closed all day, and workers participating in the strike would not be paid for the day.

Union members voted in favour of the four hour stoppage, which is not the first time workers have walked off the job over the dispute.

But late yesterday, all workers voted not to support the planned industrial action, overriding the union’s plans.

According to Australian Meat Industry Employees Union industrial officer, Lee Norris, further meetings will be held to discuss the issues.

Workers, union members and the employers say they will continue to negotiate in good faith.


Injured meat worker wants $500 000

A Rockhampton meatworker injured when three knives plunged into his body is seeking more than $750 000 in damages.

Steven Charles Larson was working as a slaughterman at the JBS Nerimbera abattoir in 2009 when the freak accident occurred, leaving him with stabs to his neck, collarbone and hand.

The now 41-year-old wounds resulted in permanent damage and pain to his neck and left hand, and has also ruined his career possibilities, the court has heard.

Documents lodged with the Supreme Court in Rockhampton stated that at 5:45am on 14 July 2009, the Mount Morgan man was preparing for his shift by sharpening his knives in the "kill floor" anteroom.

The room was located directly below a set of stairs leading to the floor, and when a colleague was walking up the stairs, she dropped her knife kit.

Three knives fell and speared Larson, according to the claim.

Larson is suing for the loss of his weekly pay packet of $800 for the past three years and then for the next 25 years.

The total compensation will total over $500 000.

Larson is also seeking compensation for his medical expenses, both past and continuing, for the injuries sustained in the accident.

Larson has "endured and continues to endure pain, suffering and diminution of the enjoyment of the amenities of life,” according to the statements, which also say the company is "vicariously liable" for the actions of Larson's colleague.

They argue that JBS failed to provide a safe workplace by ensuring proper barricades would stop falling knives hitting employees.

It’s not been an enjoyable time of late for JBS, with news yesterday that it would be closing the Dinmore meatworks on Friday in response to workers walking off the job.

The move comes after a number of work stoppages, as workers fight for a four per cent annual pay rise to be included in a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Management at JBS Australia’s Dinmore meatworks said the decision by workers to walk off the job for four hours on Friday will mean the entire plant will have to be closed all day.

Industrial action closes Ipswich’s biggest meatworks

Following a number of work stoppages, a meatworks in Queensland’s Ipswich has will close completely on Friday, as workers fight for a four per cent annual pay rise to be included in a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Management at JBS Australia’s Dinmore meatworks said the decision by workers to walk off the job for four hours on Friday will mean the entire plant will have to be closed all day.

Those who do strike will not be paid for the day.

The meatworks is the largest private company in Ipswich, with 2000 employees.

Members of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) began a ban on working overtime in May as part of their fight for the four per cent payrise, and when they did not get the response they wanted, began a number of two-hour stoppages earlier this month.

Last Thursday and Friday AMIEU members conducted four-hour strikes, and tomorrow’s planned action will be met with a total closure by the company.

"Unfortunately, the industrial action was extended to four hours on Thursday, June 21, for the night shift and on Friday for the day shift," JBS Australia director and manager of corporate and regulatory affairs John Berry said.

"We will stop operations completely this Friday because a four-hour stoppage causes animal welfare issues and food safety issues and the viability of the whole shift is affected."

Berry wouldn’t speculate about the impact of ongoing stoppages on shifts and said representatives from JBS will meet with reps from AMIEU in an attempt to reach a compromise.

"We've put the three per cent offer on the table, but anything more than that is not commercially viable in terms of the long-term operation of the Dinmore meatworks," Berry said.

"We constantly discuss these issues with the on-site delegate and the union."

AMIEU state secretary Brian Crawford said he was unaware of any official plans by JBS to shut down the plant in response to the workers strike.

"As far as I'm aware the lockout has only been presented as a possibility, but it won't affect future stoppages," he said.

"The issues continue to be a four per cent pay increase, improved employment continuity, guaranteed "no disadvantage" in respect of public holidays due to flexible rostering and payment of reasonable penalty rates (30%) when working additional days.

Reliance on transported foods could leave entire towns starving: govt report

A new report from the federal government has found that Australia’s growing reliance on foods transported long distances could be deadly in the case of natural disasters or other crises.

The Resilience in the Australian Food Supply Chain report, by the Department of Agriculture, found that the increasing dependence on perishables including milk and produce being transported thousands of kilometres would spell disaster, particularly for smaller towns, if a disaster occurred.

''The key question is whether, following a natural disaster or other major disruptive event, Australians in affected regions would go hungry,” the report says.

“The risk that this could happen is growing, especially if separate events in Australia's eastern states were to coincide.”

Over 75,000 truck trips are conducted each week across Australia to deliver more than 40 million cases of food, which is then sold from about 80,000 retail outlets including supermarkets, shops and restaurants.

Late last month the Transport Workers Union (TWU) accused Coles and Woolworths of contributing to road deaths by placing unrealistic demands on truck drivers, and the DAFF report also pointed to the increasingly complicated distribution networks created by the supermarkets as a contributing factor in the potentially dangerous situation.

''Longer supply chains expose transport routes to more points of potential vulnerability from such events as flood, fire and earthquake,'' the report states.

The Queensland floods in late 2010 and early 2011 highlighted some of the major issues with the current supply chain, with Rockhampton cut off by road, rail and air for more than two weeks and Brisbane coming within one day of running out of bread completely.

While nobody starved during the floods, it did highlight the potential risk of larger disasters, or more than one occurring at the same time.

If the Queensland floods had occurred at the same time as the bushfires of 2009, it would have been impossible for food to be delivered to far north Queensland, the report found.

As global warming increases, weather extremities increase and it becomes almost impossible to predict seasons, the possibility of two such disasters occurring simultaneously, or close enough to, is not unrealistic.

''If we had multiple emergency experiences happening around the same time – flood in Queensland, fire events in Victoria and another event in, say, South Australia – then the national system would struggle.,” Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Allen Grant told the current Senate inquiry into food processing.

Last week it was revealed the one in four products currently sold in Australia’s major supermarkets is private label and of those, one in two is imported.

The reliance on imports and lower quality foods to reduce costs in the cut-throat supermarket price war has led to countless Australian farmers, growers, processors and manufacturers being pushed out of work, but the current Senate Inquiry is struggling to get anyone to publically criticise the big two, for fear of punishment.

The departing chief executive of the Winemakers Federation of Australia, who would only speak out because he was leaving the representative body, came out swinging over the weekend, saying the supermarkets are also bullying winemakers, as well as food producers.

Two meat processing facilities approved in Australia’s north

Two abattoirs in Australia’s north have been approved, but according to Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, the close proximity of the facilities will not be a problem.

One facility is near Darwin and the other in Cloncurrry, in north-west Queensland.

The Conclurry facility in the Northern Territory was approved by the state government earlier this month.

The meatworks facility will have the capacity to process 1000 animals a day.

On Wednesday the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) announced it plans to purchase 600 hectares near Darwin for its northern abattoir project.

Currently there are not any major meat processing faculties located in the Northern Territory, top end of Queensland or Western Australia, so Katter believes the construction of two in relatively close proximity will not be an issue.

"I don't think [it will be a problem]. I really don't because there's room for one in Darwin, too," he said.

Katter said if the Katter Australian Party had been elected in the recent Queensland election, it would have ensured all graziers and cattleman in the Mid West and Gulf would have access to irrigation.

It would have justified the development of "two meatworks to service the Gulf and Mid West,” he said.

Katter said his proposal could "easily turn off half a million head of cattle a year," as the processing facility cuts the weight of the meat to one-third for easier transport to the Port of Townsville.

"It would double production, double carrying capacity, and they wouldn't have setbacks in a drought if they had irrigation on farms," he said.

"Why the government won't allow it is beyond my wildest stretch of imagination."

QLD coal seam gas producers could pay more under new govt

The humiliating defeat of Anna Bligh and her Queensland Labor party by the Liberal National Party could have big impacts for coal seam gas producers who want to explore on farming land.

As part of its campaign, Campbell Newman’s LNP party promised to compensate those impacted by mining, including farmers, in a “full and fair” way, which would include the company paying any legal costs, as well as compensation for loss of future development opportunities, The Financial Review reports.

Companies would also be required to spend time negotiating with resource companies, and CSG producers may be forced to make their contracts with landowners available to the public.

There are currently almost $50 billion worth of CSG projects under construction in Queensland, mostly owned by companies including Santos, Origin Energy and BG Group.

However MP Bob Katter doesn’t believe the LNP will behave any differently towards CSG than Labor did, warning Queenslanders they would soon find out ‘they voted in a similar animal’ to Labor, singling out issues such as growing community opposition to coal seam gas mining.”

‘The majority of things they are angry about they will face under a Liberal government with a bigger majority,’ he said.

Are you a Queensland farmer facing possible CSG exploration or drilling? How do you think the LNP government will be different?

Food plan will damage farming industry: QLD mayor

The mayor of Richmond in Queensland has declared the farming industry will suffer when the northern food bowl is developed, as it will be too expensive for farmers.

John Wharton, mayor of Richmond, in the north west of the state said the Flinders River Agricultural Precinct, which aims to get land users to partake in irrigated agriculture, will only work with assistance from state and federal governments.

"The farmers on that river need to invest millions of dollars to build a farm. They’re not going to be doing that in these times," he told the ABC.

"To get any farms up and running along that river will cost a couple of million dollars in pumping gear, then another couple of million dollars to develop a farm.

“There’s a lot of money involved."

Chris Griffin, National Dairy Farmers Association president has shared similar concerns over the government’s food plan with Food Magazine, saying the Murray Darling Basin plan will mean less water available for the same number of farmers in the region.

“Given that the government has a national food plan they’re trying to roll out and we believe the dairy industry is a massive part of that, we would like to consult with them about the plan,” he said.

“Australia has been very fortunate that we have been able to produce enough dairy products not only for domestic consumption, but also for export, which then generates wealth for the country.
“This plan is going to jeopardise that.”

“At this stage we say a certain amount of water has been taken out already and we need to have a strategic look, working with the government to see where it is going to come from in the future rather than using the ‘Swiss cheese approach’ currently being used.

“It means less water for the same amount of farmers, and maintenance costs will be higher because there are not as many people contributing to the maintenance.”

Little backlash over GM bananas

The banana industry has managed to avoid the public backlash against genetically modified (GM) food.

In the Northern Territory, a maximum area of 1.5 hectares can have GM bananas planted, following an application by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) which was approved by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) in January 2011.

It allowed a controlled release of 151 lines of GM banana at Litchfield Municipality, near Darwin.

Prof James Dale ran a workshop for all local banana growers to let them know what was happening when the vitamin biofortificiation project in Innisfail began, and believes it is the transparency that has allowed the crops to be planted, the North Queensland Register reports.

“We’ve had no push back at all, which has been wonderful,” he said.

He said though the trials are targeted toward a product that would eventually be grown in Africa, it is important to keep people informed.

“It’s really important to keep everyone informed about what is going on.

“It’s nothing secretive,” he said.

Earlier this year experts were calling for more transparency in modern farming practises, as doubts about the way our food is grown, prepared and delivered increase.

High omega-3, no fishy taste: Brisbane company explodes onto dairy market

The world’s first non-fermented, multi strain probiotic drink products have been created by a Brisbane-based food technology start-up.

Progel, a start-up initially formed by UniQuest, with investment from UniSeed and Brisbane Angels will commercialise the technology developed by Professor Bhesh Bhandari from the University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences with a $250 000 Commercialisation Australia grant.

The end result of the technology will include an omega-3 milk and juice with up to four times the omega-3 of omega-3 milks already on the market, without a fishy smell or taste.

Only safe food ingredients are used in the products, including alginate, a product derived from seaweed and sustainably harvests, that is often used in foods including ice cream.

The research team led by Bhandari has already developed successful prototypes of the products.

Together with Australian and international food and ingredient manufacturers, Progel will examine the commercial viability of Progel’s encapsulation technology.

They will then co-develop new products with levels of probiotics and omega-3 currently unavailable in milk and juice products.

“Omega-3 and probiotics have been selected to test the technology as they have widely accepted health benefits and broad consumer awareness, but are only available in a small number of foods or as supplements,” Bhandari said.

“Adding probiotics to manufactured dairy and juice products can improve digestion and general gut health, and boost the immune system.

“However, such products are not currently possible, as milk and juice products with probiotics go sour within days.

“And even though existing food products fortified with fish-based omega-3 oils only have small amounts added, a residual smell and taste is common.

Bhandari says the benefits of the products will benefit consumers who previously did not have to option of such high levels of omega-3 and probitoics without the fishy taste.

“The key advantage of Progel ingredients is that they don’t affect the quality, texture, taste or smell of the product, and products containing Progel encapsulated actives may provide sufficient levels of active nutrients to provide a beneficial source of probiotics and omega-3 to consumers,” he said.

“Probiotic and omega-3 juice products made possible by the Progel technology also include calcium, so they would offer many of the health benefits of calcium, probiotics and omega-3 to consumers who do not regularly consume milk and yoghurt or oily fish.”

The health and wellbeing markets throughout Western countries are growing at a speed of knots, as the negative impacts of unhealthy eating and lifestyles become well known.

Progel chief executive, Cameron Turner, says the company’s new products will greatly benefit the industry partners by establishing a point of difference and offering innovative products with important health benefits, while also giving primary producers the chance to regain market share and profitability for their brands.

“Health-conscious Australian consumers have shown they value products made for their particular needs and tastes, which is why the market has become so competitive,” Turner said.

“Innovative products represent a new opportunity for price premiums and Progel’s products will help improve the bottom line for future-focused milk and juice companies, as well as their associated dairy farmers and fruit growers.

“If it’s successful here, Progel will join a long list of Australian food innovations exported to manufacturers around the world.”